Monday, February 06, 2006


Time: Preview of Gonzales testimony to Senate today

A.G. Alberto GonzalesAttorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, left, plans to use a Congressional hearing on Monday to lash out at "misinformed, confused" news accounts about President George W. Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program, and to declare it "is not a dragnet," according to administration documents provided to TIME. "I cannot and will not address operational aspects of the program or other purported activities described in press reports," he plans to say in testimony prepared for the Senate Judiciary Committee. "These press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confused, or wrong."

According to the documents, Gonzales plans to assert in his opening statement that seeking approval for the wiretaps from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court could result in delays that "may make the difference between success and failure in preventing the next attack." He will compare the program to telegraph wiretapping during the Civil War. In accompanying testimony, the Attorney General plans to leave open the possibility that President Bush will ask the court to give blanket approval to the program, a step that some lawmakers and even some Administration officials contend would put it on more solid legal footing.

Sen. Specter presiding over Judiciary CommitteeIn pointed written questions posed in advance by Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), right, Gonzales was asked whether he would "consider seeking approval from the FISA Court at this time for the ongoing surveillance program at issue." According to 11 pages of answers to the 15 questions, Gonzales will reply, "We use FISA where we can, and we always consider all of our legal options."

Specter has said that warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens is "wrong," but Senate aides say he has concluded Bush acted in good faith. Specter's hearing, which is scheduled to last most of Monday, will focus on presidential powers in wartime and will examine whether Bush took legal shortcuts in implementing the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor communications involving suspected al-Qaeda members if one party to the conversation is inside the U.S. The program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and was exposed by the New York Times in December. Since then, lawmakers have complained that the administration's legal arguments are shaky, and have contended that briefings for the House and Senate intelligence committees were inadequate or misleading.

Full Time Magazine story.

Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
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